OFPP asks agencies to increase, improve procurement bids

The Office of Federal Procurement Policy last week took the first step toward implementing some of the Services Acquisition Reform Act panel recommendations.

OFPP sent a memo to agency chief procurement officers and senior procurement executives asking them to increase the amount of competition for contracts, especially task and delivery order types.

Paul Denett, OFPP administrator, said the amount of federal procurement money going to task orders grew to 52 percent in fiscal 2005 from 14 percent in 1990. Additionally, he said, a substantial number of these purchases were done by modifying existing contracts instead of competing them.

"The acquisition workforce has a number of tools to facilitate the efficient and effective use of competition," Denett said. "I am concerned that we are not taking full advantage of these tools, especially in the placement of task and delivery orders under indefinite-delivery vehicles."

Denett's first request is to "reinvigorate the role of the competition advocate." The OFPP Act required each agency to designate someone to promote competition and challenge barriers to competition in agency acquisitions.

Agency competition advocates must review the level of competition at their agencies by Dec. 20 and develop plans and goals to maximize competition, Denett said.

"Competition is back on people's radar screens," said Marcia Madsen, chairwoman of the SARA panel and a partner at the law firm Mayer Brown Rowe and Maw. "We heard a lot about it from the private sector, and competition is a good practice. OFPP picked up a lot of our work here."

OFPP also will ask the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council to consider five ways to improve competition.
  • Require annual reviews in writing by the competition advocate addressing the quality of planning, executing and managing of task orders worth more than $1 million.
  • Limit to one year the length of contracts awarded noncompetitively under urgent and compelling circumstances unless the chief acquisition officer approves.
  • List all sole-source awards on the fedbizopps.gov Web site.
  • Strengthen competition rules for multiple-award schedules to ensure receipt of at least three proposals.
  • Identify evaluation factors and significant subfactors for large task and delivery orders that have statements of work to compare bids against.

Madsen said many of these suggestions came from the SARA panel.

"The amount going out under indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts is way up, and OFPP recognized this," she said. "We don't have good data on how competitive it is, and we need to have it."

Denett also wants the General Services Administration to develop new standard Federal Procurement Data System reports on contract actions that will clearly differentiate the types of actions.

Denett said this will "enable better trend analysis of competed contract actions and a clearer understanding of the relative impact of recent years' activity on our acquisition workforce."

GSA also will centralize market research information for products and services.
"We must work together to maximize the meaningful use of competition and achieve the best return on investment possible for our taxpayers," Denett said.

Madsen said she is excited that OFPP is taking the panel's recommendations to heart.

"After we heard from [the] private sector about the way they buy services, you have to have a robust competitive process. Otherwise you will not get the deals you should be getting," she said. "It is a basic concept, but sometimes you have to be reminded of it. OFPP has done that in their memo."

Jason Miller writes for Government Computer News and Federal Computer Week, 1105 Government Information Group publications.

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